Joe Mack, Covington’s parks and recreation director, had a vision after attending a National Parks and Recreation Association conference two years ago.
Various subjects were covered at the conference, but one in particular struck a chord with Mack: Make better use of existing space and get more people outdoors.
Two words entered his mind: bike park.
By next spring or early summer, that vision should be a reality.
Thanks to a $232,000 grant through the Tennessee Department of Health’s Project Diabetes Initiative, Covington will have one of, if not the, biggest bike parks in West Tennessee. It will be located adjacent to Cobb-Parr Memorial Park on 83 acres known as the Newman property.
The city acquired the property, which is bordered by Liberty Avenue to the north, a riding arena to the south, baseball fields to the east and a neighborhood to the west, seven years ago. It includes rolling hills and boundaries lined with large trees.
There was thought given to installing paved tracks or perhaps baseball fields, but city officials ultimately decided an expansive bike park for people of all ages was the way to go.
“I just thought, because it’s in Tipton County, I didn’t see the need to really add concrete, different colors and all that,” said Mack, a New York City native who was hired in 2016. “I thought a more natural look would blend in and match the county. From a healthy perspective, people feel, from a mental standpoint, like they’re outdoors when they can see the grass, see the trees. It just feels more natural.”
“We’re excited about it,” said Covington Mayor Justin Hanson. “We wanted to do something different, outside of the box. There’s nothing like it in Tipton County. It’s very unique for a city Covington’s size to have a park with so much acreage.”
A dirt bike path, which is expected to be about a mile long, will wrap around a smaller area that will be designated for small children. The children’s area will include culverts, small ramps and a pump track. The long trail will include wooden ramps.
Visitors will be able to enter the bike park from Cobb-Parr or Liberty Avenue. Everything will be free, including bike and helmet rentals.
An elaborate obstacle course has already been installed on the property and will be part of the park as well. Mack said the long-term plan is to add zip lines to the park. He called it a “mini Shelby Farms,” referring to the 4,500-acre park in Memphis that has zip lines, bike trails and other amenities.
Mark said the city is looking to team up with a corporate partner for the park’s naming rights.
Construction is expected to begin next month.
Anybody who knows Mack is aware that he takes fitness seriously. On most mornings he can be seen running up and down Highway 51. There’s not even a chair by the computer in his office. He stands up for the three or four hours a day he spends at the terminal.
Mack looks at a large part of his job as helping community members live healthy lifestyles, and the bike park is one more way to do that.
“What I envision is a family that, in addition to going to the square and shopping for antiques, they spend a part of their day outside getting in some physical activity. They load up their bikes on the bike rack and head to the park. I see teenagers riding around, jumping around and the smaller kids in the park. Just spending the day doing something healthy with your family.”